From the internationally best-selling author of Kane and Abel and A Prisoner of Birth comes Only Time Will Tell, the first in an ambitious new series that tells the story of one family across generations, across oceans, from heartbreak to triumph.
The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the words "I was told that my father was killed in the war." A dock worker in Bristol, Harry never knew his father, but he learns about life on the docks from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he's left school. But then an unexpected gift wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys' school, and his life is never the same.
As he enters into adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth only leads him to a question: was he even his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who spent his whole life on the docks, or the firstborn son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?
This introductory novel in Archer’s ambitious series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany.
From the docks of working-class England to the bustling streets of 1940 New York City, Only Time Will Tell takes listeners on a journey through to future volumes, which will bring to life 100 years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the listener nor Harry Clifton himself could ever have imagined.
©2011 Jeffrey Archer (P)2011 Macmillan Audio
This post World War 1 novel takes place in English, but I would describe it as very light historical fiction. The story follows a fatherless boy (Harry Clifton) who is the son of a dock worker but as a result of an extraordinary singing voice, ends up with a scholarship to a prestigious private school. The first half felt so predictable (class differences, etc.) that I almost stopped listening. There was a bit of a mystery surrounding the death/disappearance of his father. The second half of the novel dealt with that mystery, and felt more like an unrealistic soap opera. I liked Harry and his mother enough that I did listen more eagerly to see what would happen. The end resolves the key issues of book one, but also hooks the reader into the next and very different chapter in Harry's life. No spoilers here, but even though I had already decided that one Clifton book would be enough, the end did intrigue me. If you like your historical fiction edgy and realistic, this is NOT for you. If you like a light weight page-turner, you might enjoy this.
The characters in "Only Time Will Tell" are one-dimensional and trite: The poor, struggling virtuous (or at least mostly virtuous) single mother sacrificing all for her son. The evil, rich ship-yard scion. The hard-working, nice-guy hero. Good grief. At any moment I expected the evil, rich guy to tie the poor, struggling, single mother to the railroad tracks. But that would have been too original for Archer. I fell asleep a few times while listening, only to awake to another absurd plot twist. I won't give any away, but Archer uses every silly soap opera trick. Occasionally, he injects historical facts to set the story in a real timeframe; these references are so obtrusive I'm guessing he employed a researcher and plugged in the researcher's notes whenever he got writer's block. (Note to Archer: fire your researcher. the Miranda case which resulted in the reading of Miranda rights was in 1966.) As one other reviewer stated, "...this is not literature." Nope. Not even close.
The readers' performances, however, are very good.
ONLY TIME WILL TELL is my first Jeffrey Archer story. Loved the author's rich historical detail and multi-layered characters.
Reading the multiple points of view took awhile to get used to, but I wound up loving it. The only thing that keeps me from giving the story 5 stars is the cliffhanger.
Archer has a gift for telling a story. I've seen others here compare him to Follett. I can definitely see the similarities. As with Follett the good guys are wonderful, and the bad guys hopelessly despicable. The cliffhanger at the end is more a transition to a new phase of the same story.
I wish I had read the reviews more carefully before starting with "Only Time Will Tell" because these books end in the most awful cliffhangers in an attempt to force you into buying the next book. I liked the first book so much, that I bought the 2nd in The Clifton Chronicles despite the frustrating cliffhanger - I love a good series. Because of the cliffhanger at the end of the second book, though, I will not continue purchasing the series. Mr. Archer's story & the performances are very good; however, I feel almost tricked with the way he ends each book by basically saying "if you want to know how the story ends, you must buy the next book".
I understand that it is the concept of the author to tell the story from different viewpoints, but this as well means that the same parts of the story get told on average 3 times - and sometimes make you feel that you listen to the same story again and again. Therefore it takes almost the full first book or 10 hours to start to get excited about the story.
The first book ends with a cliffhanger, therefore be prepared to have the time to listen to all 5 books of the Clifton Chronicles.
In the interview at the end of the book the author gave too much away from the next parts of the series.
Alida in Colorado
Really enjoyed the first 40 chapters. A relaxing, feel good story. Many places where I thought it was a good place to end but it kept dragging on and on and getting less and less believable. 10 chapters too many. Great narrators though and that's key!
Good story line, strong characters but not destined to reach the status of a great classic. Still all in all very enjoyable.. Looking forward to the Next book in the series.
A wonderful book, told from very different points of view focusing around the docks in Bristol, England. We learn about a young choral scholar, his working mother, his dockworker uncle, his deceased father, an older man assisting in the boy’s education, and another darker figure. The story unfolds smoothly but quickly and is lovely in the way it easily unravels its complexity. The twists are beautiful, as the shadows become light. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series. I am so thrilled to read more about Harry Clifton, Emma, and the other characters who I have grown to admire and appreciate in the rest of the Clifton Chronicles.
This story took a longer time to incubate than the five-star Prisoner of Birth. Once the story of Maisy and Harry took more form, the story became more engrossing. Moving in and out of different points of view, Archer uses the brilliant device of narrating the same story from the vantage of each of the seven main characters in the story. Spoiler coming>
As a mini-spoiler, the main evil character does not see justice done, for the most part, in this story, though perhaps time will tell, as the title suggests. And the ending, another Count of Monte Cristo/take someone else's identity similar to the one in Prisoner of Birth, is less satisfying, plausible, and wrapped up as Prisoner of Birth. But worth of credit.
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